Landowners in Wilmot Township ‘distraught and devastated’ but fighting to keep prime farmland

By Justine Fraser

A dispute has erupted between landowners in Wilmot Township and a company called Canacre Ltd. The consulting company has been going door-to-door over the last week, applying pressure to residents into selling prime farmland. If they don’t, the consultant said the lands could be expropriated by the region.

CityNews 570 has been getting various calls over the past week from concerned citizens who live in the area. They have shared that they don’t understand what the region’s objective is.

The Region of Waterloo invited landowners who could be affected to a recent council meeting on Wednesday, Mar. 20.

The group said they were invited last minute and only given about three minutes to speak.

“Many of these people are long-term farming families who are located in the area due to the high quality of farmland and assurances that land like this, far from existing urban centres, would not face development pressures,” said Alfred Lowrick, a representative for the landowners during the council meeting.

“The timelines were given for acceptance of this offer is today, which is absurd given the massive disruption to our lives and the situation it creates with a goal to reach full land acquisition of August of this year.”

Lowrick said no formal notifications, meetings or consultations happened prior to getting a knock on the door.

“To say they were distraught and devastated is an understatement,” he said. “I wouldn’t underestimate how many people are horrified about it and the impact it could bring to our rural township in this distant challenging location. The vast majority of the public will want to see this farmland protected and this factory located in a better site.”

Regional Chair Karen Redman responded during the meeting saying the matter was confidential and couldn’t provide a comment. Redman said the region’s director of economic development is directly responsible.

CityNews has obtained a document that was delivered to landowners in Wilmot Township about the expropriation of farmlands.

It reads, “Due to the time constraints of these projects, it is typically the practice of the region to commence the expropriation process during the negotiation process to ensure that lands and interests are acquired in a timely fashion.”

“Even after lands have been acquired through expropriation, an agreement on compensation can be reached through continued discussion, which is usually referred to as a settlement agreement.”

When CityNews reached out to the Region of Waterloo for comment, a joint statement from the region and Wilmot Township was given.

“Land assembly is underway to create shovel-ready sites for large-scale economic investment to further support Waterloo Region’s economic vitality as it grows to one million residents by 2050.”

The Region of Waterloo and Wilmot Township have said little about the land assembly.

In the document CityNews obtained, the Region of Waterloo answered why they are looking to acquire the property.

It reads, “there is currently a shortage of industrial lands in the Region of Waterloo – to address this situation the Region is considering the acquisition of strategic land parcels to ensure its ability to accommodate the full range of new job growth and business investment to 2051. The intention is to assemble a new industrial business park.”

During the council meeting, Lowrick said the landowners are prepared for the fight of their lives to keep the area as prime farmland.

About 770 acres of land from Wilmot Centre to Nafziger Road are in the line of fire.

As Lowrick was only given three minutes at regional council he was unable to ask any questions or get any answers. Some questions they would like answered from the region include the following.

“Why has the Grand River Conservation Authority not had any input in this planning?”

And “why has there been no public engagement or even discussion about this particular location in all the extensive long-term planning the Region has undertaken?”

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